How to Become a Geologist (Including Skills and Qualifications)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 23 January 2023

Published 12 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Geologists are experts in understanding all aspects of the planet, ranging from surface rocks to the deep interior. They can educate on how formations and structures developed over history, they can locate valuable resources and forecast natural relations like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

If you like mixing practical and technical work and are interested in science and history, learning about how to become a geologist can help you make decisions about your career. In this article, we describe what geologists do, the skills they use and how to become a geologist.

What does a geologist do?

Geologists are responsible for reviewing geophysical information, which they summarise for their employers in project reports. There is a lot of valuable information that rocks and geophysical formations can tell the world. Geologists are experts in interpreting findings to gain insights and assumptions that can serve businesses.

They often collect data in the field to map out the rock structures underground and translate it into reports. From these models, they can create strategies to dig underground, extract minerals and avoid hazards. They're able to determine where petroleum deposits and mining resources are located. It's common for geologists to work for companies searching for oil, gas or minerals. They also work for companies that need to dig beneath the surface, such as construction sites or research digs.

Related: What Does an Exploration Geologist Do? (With Skills)

How to become a geologist

Becoming a geologist involves learning the theoretical side of geology as well as practising this knowledge from real-world experience. Below is a step-by-step guide that outlines how to become a geologist:

1. Complete a bachelor's degree

The first step on the path to becoming a geologist is to complete a bachelor's degree in a science or applied science course. You'll have the option to choose a major in an applied science undergraduate degree. Budding geologists can either major in geology, geoscience, applied geology or geophysics.

Majoring in geology will teach you about how the earth formed and evolved over the past 4.4 billion years. This includes the origin of continents, oceans and how the natural processes in the earth's interior affect the surface we live on. The course may also include fieldwork, to incorporate the practical side of geology.

2. Gain experience in the area of geology

Gaining experience within geology can put you in an excellent position to land a geologist job after you graduate. Many large companies have a graduate program for hiring graduates with little to no experience, however, these can be competitive. You can look for opportunities to gain fieldwork or work experience while you study. Work experience can improve your understanding of your studies too, as you'll gain real-life experience of what you're learning.

An internship can be helpful for landing your first geologist job. It can also set you up with your first geological network of professionals, and you may go on to be hired by the business you intern for.

3. Consider completing a master's degree

After you've completed your bachelor degree and majored in a geology subject, it's possible to begin your career at this stage. However, many geologists choose to complete a master's degree as well, to increase their chances of being hired and specialising in an area of geology.

A Master of Geoscience, Archeology or Petroleum Geoscience and Earth and Environmental Sciences are typical master's degrees that graduate geologists complete. If you have a specific area of interest and want to make yourself more appealing to employers in that area, a master's degree can be an excellent way to do that.

4. Join a geology institute

The first three steps should set you up to land a geology job. Once you're in the field you may be eligible to join an institution. The Geological Society of Australia and the Australian Institute of Geoscientists require you to work a qualifying amount of time working in the industry to be eligible.

Joining an institute can help you stay up to date with the latest news and trends in the industry. It can also showcase your investment in continued professional development and help you advance your career.

Relevant skills for geologists

As well as geology technical knowledge obtained through a degree, developing the soft skills below can help you prepare to become a geologist:

Communication skills

Geologists are used for their technical capabilities. This means they use their knowledge to establish insights that must be communicated to different professionals. Geologists use strong written and verbal communication skills to clearly explain their findings through conversation and reports. For example, a geologist may interpret large data sets gathered from measuring underground formations. They'll then need to make this information digestible to people that don't have the same knowledge or use the same terminology as they do.

Communication skills can be improved by conversing with more people from a background that is different to yours. This can challenge you to articulate your ideas in a simpler way.

Computer literacy

Geologists use computer software to analyse data from surveys. They need to have competent computer literacy skills in order to use this software effectively and interpret the data accordingly. You can also use computer skills to create reports on these findings and communicate with their co-workers.

You can develop computer literacy in geology software when you undertake your studies in geology, as mentioned in the "how to become a geologist" section. You can improve your general computer literacy skills by researching online and practising what you learn. Youtube offers many great tutorials that provide step-by-step techniques to improve specific computer tasks too.

Teamwork skills

Geologists often work as part of a multi-disciplinary team and offer their findings towards a collective team goal. For example, a geologist may share information about the characteristics of a petroleum reservoir with a petroleum engineering team to help them plan the best method of extraction. Teamwork skills allow a geologist to work efficiently among these teams to achieve optimal results.

You can develop teamwork skills through experience working in a team. During your studies, you can place extra effort into how you work within group projects and ask your team members for constructive feedback.

Analytical skills

The work of geologists can often be ambiguous, so they require analytical skills to develop informed assumptions. To perform an effective analysis, you need to have a solid background in the theoretical side of geology as well as critical thinking skills. Once a geologist has their results, they must analyse it in the wider field and think creatively about what they mean for the goals of the project.

You can develop analytical skills by being more observant as a big part of being analytical is absorbing as much information as possible. You can practise mindfulness to help you become more observant. Online brain games are also a great way to improve your critical thinking and analytical skills.

Frequently asked questions about becoming a geologist

Below we answer some of the frequently asked questions from people wondering how to become a geologist:

How many years does it take to become a geologist?

Becoming a geologist can take three to six years, assuming you study full-time. The vast amount of knowledge that geologists need to acquire before they begin work means that they need to complete a bachelor's degree at least. Bachelor degrees in applied science generally take three years to complete, or four with an honours award.

When considering how to become a geologist, undertaking a master's degree may appeal to you. A master's degree can take you an additional two years to complete before you become a geologist.

Is it hard to become a geologist?

Some of the content involved in becoming a geologist may be hard to learn, but the excellent courses available can sufficiently guide you along the way. If science, maths and history are your strengths at school, becoming a geologist may be highly achievable for you.

If these subjects aren't your strength, it just takes some determination to develop these skills through your university studies.

What is the average salary of a geologist?

Geologists earn an average salary of $122,974 per year. Their work helps many major corporations achieve their resource goals so they're a valuable asset to mining companies. Their schedule can be highly versatile, with many geologists working in a fly-in-fly-out situation. Other geologists can work in offices and rarely visit the field at all. Work for geologists can be location-dependent, and they may have to seek work in cities or areas that require their resources.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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